There’d be no dancing in the pub that night. Air quality alerts had been on “Severe” for the past three months, and the popular Sorrowing Gnome, with its airtight construction, was filled with exhausted workers. Pub owner Tommy Finn leaned an elbow against the bar and stared at the TV above.
“Stock in Enviro-domes International hit an unprecedented high today,” a googly-eyed government hack chirped from the TV. “Another victory in our war against the Climate Accord—so much winning!”
Molly drooped over her pint, breath labored and bubbling. Twenty-two and still beautiful, her cheeks were nonetheless pale and drawn, her eyes dark and bagged as a woman in her fifties. She was a day laborer, as were most of the other patrons leaning at the bar. They were in no position to invest in Enviro-dome, much less shelter in one.
“I’m sick of being sick,” Molly groused, resting her tow-headed brow in her hand.
“I know a sure remedy for that!” a skeletal man sidled over to her barstool and waggled his heavy eyebrows, his leer thick as the city smog outside the door. Tommy put down his bar rag and eased his way out into the main part of the pub.
Molly glared at the offending man, “Leave off, Jack. I told you I don’t want anything to do with you.”
“Oh come on, darlin’. Let’s just step into the back here, and I promise I can ease any…uh…discomfort you might be feeling,” He leaned over her, his wheeze quickening as his dark eyes gleamed.
“I’d say blow it out your arse, Jack, but it stinks worse than your cheesy lines,” Molly snapped, then grabbed on to the bar, violently coughing.
Jack’s face contorted, red with rage and drink. He reached into the folds of his filthy macintosh for his weapon.
“That’s enough from you, Jack Ripper,” Tommy’s meaty hand grabbed his arm, twisting it behind his back, while grabbing the opposite shoulder and slamming his head down on the bar. Shoving the dazed Jack across the floor, he again slammed him up against the heavy wooden door. “You’ll get no shelter in my establishment.”
The door’s seal popped as Tommy hauled it open and pushed Jack into the spinning smog. Jack tumbled, his knife glinting in the pub’s light. The smog roiled and gobbled at the edges of his jacket and hair. He disappeared before he hit the ground. Tommy pushed the door shut and turned with a grin.
“With any luck, the smog will get him before he kills anyone else,” Molly raised her pint, smiling faintly.
“From your lips to God’s ear, Molly.” Tommy resumed his spot behind the bar. “Just the same, you’re welcome to stay here tonight.”
“Does that offer go for the rest of us, Tom?” One-eyed McGinty winked and raised his glass.
“Of course! Where else would you be?” He raised his own pint, “Here’s to the victors in the War Against Climate Accord—may they all end up like old Jack the Ripper!”
Deep in the cellar down below,
Back beyond the kegs of Irish Blue,
Beyond the dusty bottles of Darby Black that no one in this neighborhood pub could afford,
Through a narrow passage and behind a locked iron door,
Down a curving set of steps carved into subterranean granite cliffs
In a time before anyone still living could remember,
A river tumbled,
Sweet and pure and sparkling.
And tied to a silver cleat with a silken line, a sturdy boat bobs,
Ready and waiting.
© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2018)
From Midtown Writers, six minutes on “I know a remedy for that.”
Carrot Ranch Prompt (05/03/2018): In 99 words (no more, no less) use a line in your story. You can think of the variation of the word meaning, or you can think of visual references. Go where the prompt leads.